Chama Steam is an annual photo charter put together by Jay Wimer (of the Goat), in cooperation with the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad and Bob Manthey-Zorn of Chama’s Trackside Emporium. The first trip was back in 2002, with subsequent excursions at least planned every year after that. However, due to the precarious position of the railroad, both from a financial, operator contract, and state of equipment point of view, in many of those interveining years, many of those planned trips wound up cancelled. With the railroad on the rebound, however, Chama Steam V (2006) turned out to be a spectacular success. Three weeks ago, I rode the first of the pair of Chama Steam VI photo freights – the so-called
“Fall Madness” trip that ran from Chama to Antonito and back. This weekend (Friday-Saturday, October 19-20, 2007) was the Chama Steam VI Classic trip.
The Chama Steam Classic runs from Chama up to Osier and back, as has been done in previous years (hence the “Classic” part). I didn’t ride this one, but chased instead. In the interest of getting photos up fast, I’m not going to say much more. It was a spectacular triple-headed freight from Chama to Cumbres, followed by a run to Osier with only a single engine. Back from Osier was a double-header as far as Cumbres, and then the two halves ran as separate sections down the hill. It was every bit as spectacular as the one I was on several weeks ago, and you’ll get a different perspective this time.
Friday, Oct 19, 2007
Upon my arrival in Chama at about 1500h on Friday, 19-Oct-2007, Bill and Paul had just gotten the magnetic Rio Grande decals on the engines and were working on touching up the paint around the rivet holes. As you see, they don’t blend in very well.
Meanwhile, the shop crew is finishing up servicing on the engines and getting them ready for Saturday’s run. Here, 488 gets a little sand.
A few hours later, all four polished up and ready for Saturday’s excursion. It’s amazing what a case of WD-40 and some squeegies will do to make the tender shiny and the magnetic decals blend in…
All three K-36s (484, 487, and 488) are almost ready as the sun closes in on the horizon. Paul’s just taking care of a few last details, like cleaning the numberboards. We’ll be back in about two hours to start on the night shoot.
You couldn’t ask for a more beautiful fall afternoon in narrow gauge country…
488 sits in front of the Chama engine house on Friday night. Thanks to Nathan Z. for figuring out this particular shot – I never would have seen it otherwise.
Some experimentation with multiple exposures and some high dynamic range processing…
484 and the sand tower, both painted in a long exposure using a pair of high-power handheld spotlights.
One of the night hostlers appears as sort of an ethereal apparition in 487’s cab, as the glow of the fire shows through the bottom of the firebox.
488 sits on the north side of the Chama shops
484 and 487 sit simmering under the clear New Mexico night. 488 is just barely visible to the right.
Saturday, Oct 20, 2007
It’s a balmy 25 degrees in Chama at 0730h, and the train is assembled and ready to go. The sun is still just barely below the eastern mountains.
The configuration going up to Cumbres will be 484 in the lead, followed by 7 stock cars, one flat, one gon, a tank, then swing helper 487 followed by four boxes, two reefers, a gon, a pipe gon and idler flats, then rear pusher 488, a rider gon and two rider boxes, and finally the caboose.
484 and the leading stock cars up near the Chama tank. The overnight frost is still very visible on the ground, making the ground a bit slick.
Out of town just after 0800h, the train highballs by Jukes’ Tree at 0805h. For those who don’t know, the tree got its name from Fred Jukes, a railroad employee who worked in Chama around 1907-1908 and was fond of including this tree in his photographs.
The first run-by was just out of town, near the former site of Broad’s Spur, a small 8-car spur track just north of the first Hwy 17 crossing.
Entering the Narrows, north of Chama.
487, with Jeff Stebbins at the throttle, serves as the mid-train (swing) helper for the climb to Cumbres.
Sunlight still eludes the canyon bottoms as the train climbs out of the Narrows towards Lobato. The train will stop and do a run-by at the Lobato stock pens.
There were three run-bys at Lobato – one at the stock pens, one on the trestle, and one on the upper side of the curve towards Dalton. Here’s the train on the Lobato trestle, making the second run-by.
And for the third run-by, here’s 484 putting on a darn good show as it rounds the curve towards Dalton Crossing.
On the climb between Lobato and Dalton, nearly the entire train is visible. The only thing missing are the three rider cars and the caboose.
Climbing along the west side of the Rio Chama valley towards Dalton Crossing.
Approaching the second Hwy 17 crossing, with the Chama valley in the background.
A broader shot, showing as much of the train as possible.
No stopping at Cresco tank for water – the train is headed right on by, bound for run-bys at Windy Point, just short of the summit.
Blasting up grade just past the Cresco tank
488 acts as the rear helper today, placed just behind the pipe gon and idlers and ahead of the passengers in the rider gon, boxes, and caboose.
Light on eastbounds at Coxo, on a good day, can be best described as weird. Here’s our train again, headed upgrade timetable-eastbound (geographically westbound) near Coxo.
On the geographic west side of the Coxo crossing, 484 and 487 pound up the grade towards Cumbres.
What’s this? The next run-by would be at Windy Point, and to back the train down, they broke it into three pieces. Everything from the caboose through the boxcars came down with 488 in the middle, and then 487 showed up with the rest of the cars. 484 would be along a bit later, running light.
With the three sections reassembled below the Coxo crossing, the freight starts to make a run on Windy Point and the summit.
484 swings around Windy Point, high above my vantage point in the valley below.
484 leads the arriving train at Cumbres Pass.
They’ll only be taking two of the K-36s to Osier and back. 484 will be sent back down the hill light. So, the crew breaks the train between 487 and the tank car, and 484 prepares to drop them in the siding before heading for the wye.
With the first part of the train cut off, the crew prepares to water 487.
While 487 is watered, the train is still strung across the summit with 488 on the downhill side.
Giving 488 a drink as a younger generation of fan looks on…
484 being wyed, with what remains of the old snowshed on the tail in the background.
And a little more water for 484 before we head down the hill.
487 ran light from Cumbres to Osier, and would later be placed on the point for the return trip.
Meanwhile, the rest of the train, led by 488, continues on towards Osier, as seen here on the bottom approach to Tanglefoot Curve.
On the downhill side of the Los Pinos horseshoe, with the tank in the foreground.
A broader shot of an eastbound freight in the Los Pinos valley (rider cars selectively excluded…)
With the train temporarily out of reach in the Los Pinos valley, it was time for lunch. So, it was back to Chama with a few other chasers I knew. We found 484, still on its way back, as we approached the first Hwy 17 crossing.
And 484 again, pulling into the Chama yard…
After a few run-bys at places like Cascade and Long Creek, as well as lunch and rearranging the train at Osier, 487’s in the lead for the westbound return trip. This was taken from a hill east of Apache Crossing, looking back east along the Los Pinos valley towards Osier.
Showing the newly rearranged consist as the train gets closer to Los Pinos.
As the train rounds the curves before Apache Crossing, the light is gone. Clouds have rolled in, and the wind is blowing like a hurricane.
Three characters on the back platform at Apache – William Diehl, trip organizer Jay Wimer, and Bill Noe (Mr. WD-40 himself)
Looks like I botched the composition, but how else was I going to believably cut off those rider boxes?
After a run-by at Tanglefoot, they again broke the train in half, set up the retainers, did the brake tests, and headed down the hill as two sections. Here’s the first (all freight) section at Cumbres in a little bit of sun.
And then again with the first section in failing light near the Coxo crossing
Running about twelve minutes behind the first section, the second section starts down from Windy Point.
By the time the second section shows up with 488, a few freight cars, and the passengers, there’s just a little break in the cloud cover.
By Cresco, the clouds have reasserted dominance over the sun. It’s still not a bad shot, though.
What Cumbres and Toltec chase would be complete without at least one shot at the S-curve between Cresco and Dalton?
Heading down out of the S-curves with the open valley behind.
Coming down the long straightaway towards the second Hwy 17 crossing, just above Dalton.
Approaching Dalton crossing from the north (timetable east)
DRGW 0579 bringing up the rear as the train heads for the curves above Lobato.
488 is crossing Lobato on the return trip. I’d just like to say – 1/160th of a second with a 640mm lens (effective – 1.6x crop on a 400mm) hand-held in a brisk cross-wind, and still reasonably sharp. Image stabilization rocks!
Through one of the S-curves down in the Narrows, just outside Chama
Rolling right along through the home stretch, just a mile out of the yard now.
Coming into the Chama yard
And past the famous coaling tower.
That’s it, folks – no more light (honestly, I’ve been at ISO 1000 for the last 30 minutes). The crews start taking the train apart using 487, while 488 runs out to the wye.
All photographs in this trip report were taken with a Canon EOS 40D using either a Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS/USM or a Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS/USM.
This work is copyright 2020 by Nathan D. Holmes, but all text and images are licensed and reusable under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. Basically you’re welcome to use any of this as long as it’s not for commercial purposes, you credit me as the source, and you share any derivative works under the same license. I’d encourage others to consider similar licenses for their works.